by Salome Jones
This is an interview I did with Tim in 2011, before we started editing together.
I sat down with Tim over dessert to talk about his writing, his life, and of course Red Phone Box. He’s dark-haired and bearded, with a ready smile lurking behind his green eyes. He dressed all in black and wore a mysterious looking amulet on a black silk cord around his neck.
Salome: Thank you so much for writing Still Life. (NB. Tim wrote a story for a story cycle I was putting together.Red Phone Box, Ghostwoods Books, due out July 2013)
Tim: My pleasure. Not technically a question.
Salome: This is going to be a challenge.
Tim: (laughs) I’ll play nice.
Salome: I really enjoyed your story, so first off I want to ask you how you got the idea for it.
Tim: In a short story, you don’t have much time, so I started by trying to find just one flavour for the story to be about and to kind of hinge the narrative twist on. Probably inspired by Max (the cat in RPB) I settled on curiosity. Once I knew the protagonist was going to be undone by curiosity, the rest fell into place pretty quickly. The character had to be someone dreamy and imaginative. There had to be something pulling her in. The clearest way to achieve that was through a dream.
The old guy is Legba, the voodoo patron of communications and crossroads, kind of like a Mercury figure. Or Nyarlathotep. His colours are red and white – Legba, not Nyarlathotep. (We both laugh.) Also, a telephone box is kind of a juncture in the info-sphere, a figurative crossroads if not a literal one, so he seemed the obvious guardian. Legba is the patron of writers too, so he’s always good to name-check.
Salome: And how do you know so much about him?
Tim: Oh, I’ve dabbled in voodoo. (He grins.) Seriously, I’m very interested in world religions and mythologies.
Salome: You do a lot of writing.
Salome: What kind of writing do you do, mostly?
Tim: At the moment it’s mostly been puzzles for the past year or two. But really, I’ll write whatever they’ll pay me for.
Salome: How did you get started as a writer?
Tim: A number of my professors made comments on how readable my essays were, if not how brilliant. And that somehow translated into the student newspaper sending me to interview Terry Pratchett.
Salome: What university was this?
Tim: UCL (University College London)
Salome: What you were studying?
Tim: Anthropology. Great for a writer, luckily; gives you an idea about how people and societies hang together.
Salome: So you went to interview Terry Pratchett.
Tim: Yeah. It was cool. He was nice. Obviously exhausted, poor sod.
Salome: When was this?
Tim: ’92 or ’93. When that appeared, it was enough to get me a recommendation from a mate to a family friend of his to write mail-order books. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Salome: So when you say ‘mail-order books’ you mean, the kind of thing you see listed in the classifieds in the backs of magazines. (He nods.) What sort of thing were they?
Tim: Well, highlights include Miracle Bible Foods, The Complete Guide to a Good Abdomen in Just Five Minutes a Day, and The Encyclopaedia of Sex.
Salome: You had to do a lot of research for these books. (laughs)
Tim: (raises an eyebrow) Absolutely. (He grins.) Ah, and Baking Soda Secrets was quite ‘special.’
Tim: So for example, for Miracle Bible Foods, I went through the Bible verse by verse and made a list of everything potentially edible.
Salome: The whole Bible?
Tim: The whole Bible. And then went through an herbal pharmacopeia and listed all of the supposed uses of that foodstuff.
Salome: Were there any that you couldn’t find?
Tim: Oh yes, things like rock rabbit and pangolin.
Salome: And this was in the early nineties, so you couldn’t look it up on the internet.
Tim: Yeah, there was no ‘net, not in the sense we know it now.
Tim: Scaly anteater.
Salome: So were there things you remembered all these years and one day, were like, I wonder what that was, and you found yourself Googling it?
Tim: No, I’ve tried to repress those books as much as possible!
Salome: And the Complete Guide to a Good Abdomen in Just Five Minutes a Day?
Tim: I made that up. Well, I cobbled it together from a bunch of other diet and fitness books, anyway.
Salome: So on the whole, you probably wouldn’t recommend direct mail books.
Tim: (laughs quite raucously) No.
Salome: Really? Because self-published books are a big thing now. You don’t think things have changed?
Tim: No. I’d say maintain a healthy skepticism!
Salome: So you’ve been working on a kind of cool puzzle book project having something to do with Google Earth. Is that right?
Tim: Uh huh.
Salome: Can you say anything about it? What’s it called?
Tim: It’s called The Great Global Treasure Hunt on Google Earth.
Salome: And what is it exactly?
Tim: It’s a set of visual and textual puzzles that cross-reference Google Earth and lead to one specific spot on the planet. The first person to find that spot will win €50,000.
Salome: Fifty thousand euros?
Tim: Or $75,000.
Salome: And when is it coming out?
Tim: It will be out on August 31st.
Salome: So it’s coming out internationally?
Salome: You’ve also started your own publishing company.
Tim: Yeah, it’s called Ghostwoods Books.
Salome: And this follows on the heels of your doing years of editing work.
Tim: I was an executive editor at Carlton Books, a commissioning editor at Wizards of the Coast, the managing editor of Nightfall Games, and I was even a technical editor for European Passenger Services, working on the manuals for train drivers heading under the channel. I’ve been editing for twenty years, and have edited more than three hundred books for professional publication.
Salome: And now you’re publishing other people’s books.
Tim: Yes, I have four books ready to go and at least one more in the wings.
Salome: You’re still accepting submissions?
Tim: Absolutely. Guidelines are on my website.
Salome: I’m curious about something you said earlier. How did you start writing puzzles?
Tim: I worked for Wizards of the Coast for a while and afterward wrote a book about one of their games, Magic: the Gathering. The publisher liked me enough to keep throwing work at me. When they discovered I was a member of Mensa – a lapsed member, at the time – they got me working on their Mensa books, which were mostly puzzles. It kind of went from there.
Salome: So if you could write anything you wanted, what would you write?
Tim: If I knew that, I’d be writing it.
Salome: But you are working on some writing projects of your own?
Tim: Yeah, I’ve always got a few projects on the burner. Paid work keeps getting in the way though.
Salome: You said your university professors commented that your essays were very readable. So already in your early twenties, your writing showed a lot of promise. Why do you think that was?
Tim: I’m not sure. I just tried to chat onto the page, I suppose.
Salome: You’re quite a world traveler.
Tim: Yes, I’ve lived on four continents in the past ten years. I’ve been very lucky. Freedom is probably the greatest reward of writing professionally.
Salome: Do those experiences inform your writing?
Salome: You grew up in a mixed nationality household.
Salome: Where you spoke what language?
Tim: English. Dad hated speaking Greek.
Salome: Your father was Greek?
Tim: Yes, but I think it was of more significance that I grew up splitting my time between Greece and England.
Salome: In what way?
Tim: You grow up on the outside, neither fish nor fowl. And it allows you to see things that you’d miss if you were more on the inside, all tucked in. You become more of a wanderer, more of a free thinker.
Salome: I can see that. I had a similar experience. So it turns out well, even though it doesn’t feel very good when it’s happening.
Tim: It turns out. It’s just a path. It depends on what kinds of things you hope for in your life. If you wanted a nice sedate 2.4 lifestyle, that kind of upbringing — the media are calling us Third Culture Kids now — is going to be a nightmare.
Salome: Two point four?
Tim: House, two point four kids, car, all regular and average.
Salome: What do you think the most important qualities are for a writer? What makes a writer?
Tim: Well, you really can’t be scared of poverty. But after that, you need a good sense of what makes a story, and at least some understanding of people. That’s just as true for non-fiction as well, incidentally.
Salome: I wasn’t going to ask you this, but… do you have a girlfriend?
Tim: I’m quite happily partnered, thank you.
Salome: (laughs) That’s not what I was trying to get at.
Tim: What were you trying to get at? Tell me.
Salome: It’s just that you seem happy. I’m trying to put my finger on why.
Tim: (in a very serious voice) I am happy.
Salome: So do you think I’ll be able to talk you into writing another story for Red Phone Box.
Tim: It’s entirely possible.
Salome: Excellent. It’s getting pretty late. Just one last question. If people want to know more about any of the things we’ve talked about, where can they go.
Tim: Ghostwoods.com has more about Ghostwoods Books. The Treasure Hunt book will have a page up there soon as well.
by Tim Dedopulos
This is likely to be the last of my rambles on colour symbolism, for which you’ll probably be grateful!
The opposite of black both literally and figuratively, white is the equal presence of light from all colours of the visible spectrum, brightness without hue. It is unblemished, and has become a strong metaphor for purity and perfection. Religious thought has further extended this image of purity into a whole range of different interpretations. These are dominated by the theme of goodness: virtue, sexual abstinence, innocence, obedience, truth, sincerity, reverence, cleanliness and humility. Other auxiliary associations include understanding and protection – peace, unity with God, wisdom, enlightenment and youth – and joy, happiness, glory, purpose and so on. In religious imagery, white dominates depictions of heaven, saints, angels and God Himself, because it is perfect and untainted.
However, it can be just as accurate to associate purity with sterility, coldness, withdrawal, isolation, arrogance, unworldliness, clinicality, lack of compassion and emptiness. It is as empty of proper colour as black is; an extreme, and thus devoid of flavour or charm. Many atrocities throughout history have been perpetrated in the name of purity. In many cultures, white is the colour of death, misfortune and mourning, and even in the west, it is associated with ghosts, the pallor of disease, and the impersonal formality of the medical world. In early Hollywood, white depicted heroes and black depicted villains, but there has been a noticeable shift towards both black and white depicting extremism, and softer tones, such as earth colours, depicting moderation and sanity. Politically, white has often been used historically to depict royalty and the current leadership. It is the sign of surrender and peaceful intention and, by association, pacifism. Inevitably, this has also led to some interpreting it as a sign of cowardice, and in Victorian England, accusations of cowardice were delivered by presenting the target with a white feather.
by Tim Dedopulos
Arid landscapes with little or no vegetation, deserts are hard places to survive in. Although the stereotype is a rolling sea of sand, deserts can be cold as well as hot, rocks or bare earth as well as sand. Both visually and symbolically, the desert is free of confusion; there is no doubt. Because they are wide, open vistas without covering vegetation, they represent brutal honesty, impersonal struggle and the harsh realities of survival. Mankind is poorly tolerated in these areas, an occasional visitor who stands out clearly.
There are no distractions, giving deserts an association with clarity, revelation and purity. Because it is such a difficult, threatening terrain type, it represents barriers, obstacles and challenges. There are strong overtones of spirituality and religion bound up symbolically with desert landscapes. These areas are brutal, but they call upon the deepest reserves of a traveller’s will. In these struggles, there is no barrier to the heavens, no distractions or comforts to distract the soul from its communion.
Accordingly, the desert can be a source of wisdom and enlightenment, of trial but also of reward. It is so far outside of normal existence that only the spiritual and divine can touch and influence it. We assume a fundamental antagonism between the physical and the spiritual, feeling that gluttony and excess obscure the divine – the desert, the ultimate source of physical scourging, thus becomes the holiest territory available. It is no accident that prophets, visionaries, writers, and hermits throughout history have been strongly associated with these barren lands.
by Tim Dedopulos
Technically the absence of light, rather than a colour itself, black is a complex symbol. In the western world, it carries a lot of negative connotations, many of them centred around fear and the unknown. This is not necessarily the case in other regions, although almost all cultures recognise the duality and opposition between black and white.
One common theory regarding black’s sinister associations is the obvious link to darkness and night-time. People are afraid of what the darkness hides; it is the time of thieves, nocturnal predators, malefactors and witches. If this is the main reason for black’s negative connotations, then perhaps the western world’s particularly strong negative feelings towards black can be explained in terms of European weather. Unlike the arid regions in the Middle East, Africa and large parts of Russia and China, European skies are commonly cloudy. Night time would have been genuinely pitch black, and therefore particularly intimidating. In countries where cloud cover was much less common, even moonless starlight provides a surprising amount of illumination, and night would have been much less blind. In other words, night just isn’t as dark in the tropics and equatorial regions as it is in cloudy temperate zones.
Another possibility commonly put forth is that in any given area, people with the power and wealth to not have to work outdoors at menial tasks are going to be paler in skin-tone than those who are exposed to the sun all day. That’s an inevitable biological fact. The implication then becomes that the rulers and aristocrats are going to be paler than their poorest subjects. Taken to its extremes, these differences become symbolised as an antagonism between black and white, with black indicating meniality and inferiority.
In the west though, black’s strongest associations are linked to the theme of evil. While these meanings may be retained to a certain outside the west, they tend to be significantly weaker. Backed up by religious imagery, black now symbolises tragedy, sadness, loss, despair, fear, discord, lies, bad things, malevolence, sin, satanic works and rituals, the netherworld and, by extension of the theme of loss, mourning and bereavement. For the Chinese, by contrast, black is the colour of the element of water, and conveys stillness and passivity rather than badness.
Western popular culture’s use of the colour has led to it being reclaimed, to an extent, by younger generations wishing to defy the orthodoxy, thumb their nose at authority, and generally irritate their parents. Accordingly, black now also symbolises a whole swathe of interpretations on the theme of defiance and freedom, such as rebellion, independence, mystery, occult power, sexuality, anonymity, acceptance and anger. Politically, it is generally associated with anarchism.
Even before its uptake by youth culture however, black retained a degree of respectability. It is a perennially fashionable colour for clothing – not only is it the most flattering and slimming colour to wear, it can also convey a degree of sophistication, elegance, seriousness and power. Authority figures have often used black to add weight to their influence – priests, judges, elite and/or secret police and so on – particularly where blue’s reassuring air of safety is not required. The difference between establishment and rebel, in this case, lies mainly in the style of clothing – but then, this year’s rebels tend to become next year’s authority anyway.
by Salome Jones
When two editors who are also writers work together, they get into a lot conversations about writing. One of the perennial conversations we have here at Flourish is about ideas we get for novels. Having had these conversations for a couple of years now, I've come to realize that each of us has a distinctive way of coming up with ideas that matches the kind of writers we are.
Tim thinks of plot ideas first. He outlines in fairly great detail. He writes everything in order. His characters develop as he outlines.
I think of characters first. Plot develops as I write. I outline very sketchily at first, waiting for the idea to take hold. Later in the writing process, as the pieces have fallen into place in my head, I do a loose outline, about four ideas per chapter. This is evolution, inspired by Tim who has tried to teach me to outline.
We're two distinctive types which are referred to as planners or plotters, and pantsers. (Pantsers meaning people who come up with stories by the seat of their pants, or as they go along.)
There are many famous pantsers in the world, although they probably don't think of themselves by that term. William Gibson comes to mind as someone who sits down and writes his book from scratch without an outline. My guess is that others, like Molly Gloss, Ursula LeGuin, and a host of literary writers are all pantsers.
There are also a lot of famous people who outline, including J.K. Rowling, Henry Miller, William Faulkner, and many others.
When I started writing I was a pure pantser, but in the past couple of years, I've benefited by using a small amount of outlining. The thing about outlining is that you have to figure out in advance what's going to happen. If you attend a literary writing based MFA program, you'll be encouraged to write character driven stories and told that plot driven stories are formulaic. I was, anyway. But as long as I was writing purely character driven stories where the plot was undefined, I found it very difficult to finish anything. I even found it difficult to write longer pieces in order. I didn't know what happened everywhere, so I'd skip around filling in sections that were clear to me. This is a technique that can work but it can also fail. The failure to finish a long piece of fiction can be demoralizing to a writer.
But the real reason I tried to learn to outline was as a way of understanding what stories do. There are some very specific things that need to happen for a piece of fiction to be a story. The easiest way to see this is to look at your life. Your life is not a story. There are many events in your life that don't really relate to each other except that they all involve you.
If you wanted to tell a story from your life, you would pick a series of events that are connected. There's a destination these events are leading to. Usually there are surprises, unexpected twists or turns. And then there is 'what happened.' The big event. The end. The point. The story leads us to the point. It builds our interest. It makes us like or hate the characters. It creates a bond between reader and character, whether good or bad, or it fascinates us with the unfolding of events. Or both. The story gives the ending meaning and vice versa.
What happens if your book doesn't do what stories do? Well, think about someone who talks about themselves all the time, reporting on mundane events. Most likely you get bored. You tolerate them or you avoid them. Writing that doesn't pull the reader along in the form of a story is most likely going to lose the readers right away.
You can also lose your readers if the story doesn't fulfill its promises. It's very intriguing at first, but then it never seems to get anywhere. The things you allude to are never resolved. We call this 'cheating the reader.' Readers don't like to be cheated. They'll let you get away with it at first, if your writing is good, but eventually they'll get angry or bored.
It's absolutely possible to be a great writer as either a pantser or a plotter. But if you're having trouble, as one, consider what you might learn from the other style of writing. You can use a combination of techniques. Writing is, after all, an art, not a science.
by Tim Dedopulos
A Mary-Sue is an over-idealised fictional character that exists as an extension of the writer’s wish-fulfilment and ego drives. Despite all the talents and powers of the rest of the cast, Mary-Sue still somehow manages to be the crucial lynchpin in every situation, solving all the problems, directing the action, and totally overshadowing every other character. Ultra-competence on a character’s part is a symptom of possible Mary-Sue contamination, but it is not a definitive mark. S/he has no real flaws, is adored by all characters, frequently makes flagrant use of deus ex machina, and may share physical traits, tastes or names with the author. Generally, the presence of Mary-Sue will pretty much destroy the story.
A Mary-Sue character is usually the mark of a naive or inexperienced writer. The term originates from fan-fiction, in which enthusiasts write amateur stories based in the worlds they love. There’s plenty of great fan-fiction of course, but many Mary-Sue characters literally are the author as she dreams of being, dropped into the pre-existing cast of a story setting. The name comes from Paula Smith’s cutting 1973 parody of bad Star-Trek fan fiction, “A Trekkie’s Tale”.
Note that despite the origins, some professional original fiction characters have been criticised as being Mary-Sues. The most notable in fantasy are widely held to be Laurell K. Hamilton’s Anita Blake of the “Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter” series, particularly as she appears in later books, and Eragon, from Christopher Paolini’s “Inheritance” trilogy. Outside the genre, Wesley Crusher from “Star Trek: The Next Generation” (Wesley was even creator Gene Roddenberry’s middle name) and Dagny Taggart from Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged” are often considered two of the most egregious examples.
by Salome Jones
I follow and am followed by a number of indie writers on Twitter. Occasionally when a new one appears on my list of followers, I’ll go to their website to investigate. Sometimes I find something intriguing. But to be honest, it’s almost never the writing.
Here’s the problem. I’ll use myself as an example. When I first started writing, all the things I loved about writing and all the writers I loved, I perceived to be using all of this eloquent descriptive language. The way we interpret it as readers is as a telling of what happens in the story.
But the real way it works is that the writer makes us as readers see the unfolding of the story. Then when we have to formulate it into words, we tell it to ourselves or to others. We summarize the events of the story which are contained in pictures in our heads. The writer did something very clever. The writer came up with words that allowed our brains to imagine a visual story. These written words slipped past our conscious minds and activated our subconsciouses. That’s where dreams happen and it’s also where the fictive dream happens.
Meanwhile, our conscious minds have a completely different way of reporting the story back. And that’s where most new writers start. They are reporting the events that they imagine in a story. They’re doing it in lovely language, some of them. But what they aren’t doing is writing in the code language that lets the reader’s subconscious take over in a visual way.
The lure of beautiful language distracts the reader in us, the reporter of written stories we’ve seen, and makes us think that it’s all about the shiny, showy surface. But actually, that surface is what can prevent writing from working. This is a hard lesson to learn, because as readers, it’s utterly unnatural. What writers have to do is create pictures with words. Then readers turn them into that eloquent summary in their heads, but only after they watch your story unfold.
Exposition is the language of readers. A writer’s language is best when it disappears. That’s the zen of it.
by Salome Jones
I remember it vividly. I was standing behind a grad school classmate in front of the writing teacher’s table after class got out. Said classmate was one of my roommates. The particular teacher, already mysterious with his white hair and black eyebrows and his moody countenance, uttered the following words: “There are two Is.”
My roommate stared at him. I looked back and forth between them, squinting. “Wait. What? Did you just say there are two Is?”
“Yes,” he said. He had a smirk at the corners of his lips, a whimsical little gleam in his eyes. Kind of like Santa Claus when he tells you he knows when you’ve been naughty. “That’s not the same I there as here.” He pointed to the pages in front of him.
“I don’t understand,” I said.
“Those are two different Is.” He said this as if it was rife with meaning. Which I suppose it was. But it sure as hell explained nothing to me.
This is the approach of some literary writers to the conundrums of teaching certain aspects of theory. In hindsight, i see it as how they keep themselves in work. They could explain such mysteries clearly. The trouble is, they seem to find some value in not doing so.
There are probably hundreds of these little bits of knowledge. In a way, you don’t want them all to be revealed. It’s nice to have some zen, mysterious quality about writing that you can’t explain. After all, if you could walk down a length of rice paper and leave no trace, what would be the point of getting any better? You’d already by Kwai Chang Kane.
It was much later when I understood the mystery of the two Is. It wasn’t nearly as impenetrable as I would have thought from the way it was presented. I’ll tell you what it is in a second, but first I want to tell you what I really learned from this incident. Here it is: I don’t want to be that kind of writing teacher. I want to cut to the easiest, most readily grasped explanation of a concept.This may require reframing it several times and over a period of time. Not everyone understands things the same way. It may not immediately sink in. Learning one thing may be dependent on learning several other things first. But I refuse to be the kind of teacher who makes something more mysterious or academic than it actually is. My goal as an editor and writing teacher is to help people understand concepts and apply them.There you have it. The short version of my writing pedagogy.
Now on to the two Is.
In a first person narrative, two time periods are going on, though only one is immediately visible most of the time. The narrator is the person telling you the story. The story is set at some point in the past (with rare exception.) So let’s say we’re sitting here and I’m telling you a story about something that happened to me when I was twelve. My twelve year old self was much more naive than I am. So some of the things I could tell you would come from that point of view. Yet you’d know that I, the one sitting in front of you, found it funny, because I am not that twelve year old any more. So when I say, “I went to the window and looked out” there are two Is. The one telling you the story and the one the story was happening to.
You may ask why this matters. Now that’s a longer story. And I have to get to work.
by Tim Dedopulos
The Stygian Witches were a peculiar group of three Greek crone-sisters, the Graeae, who shared between them just one eye and one tooth. They were brought back to prominence in our culture by their portrayal in the classic 1981 epic Greek fantasy movie, Clash of the Titans. In the famous Ray Harryhausen movie, they were played by three veteran British actresses, Flora Robson, Anna Manaham and Freda Jackson.
As is so often the case in Greek mythology, there are a number of different clashing details about the Stygian witches. Some things are certain, though. They were the daughters of Phorcus and Ceta, and may have been born as triplets. They were the sisters of the Gorgons (the famous Medusa and her two obscure sisters, Euryale and Sthenno), and also their assigned guardians. They were grey-haired from the moment of birth – Graeae means ‘Grey Woman’ – and shared between them just a single eye and a single tooth. They were able to pass these organs around between them, so that each could take her turn seeing and eating. However unlikely it may sound, the Graeae are described as originally being beautiful – “fair-faced and swan-like” – although by the time they feature in any legends, they have become old and hideous.
The witches were named Deino, Pemphredo and Enyo. Their names give some indication of their perceived nature – respectively, they mean Dread, Alarm, and Horror. They lived in a dark cavern near the entrance to Tartarus, close to the island where the Gorgons were banished. Enyo in particular lived up to her name; she often appears drenched in blood, and was said to lay waste to entire cities. There are also suggestions that she may have been related to Ares, god of war, either as his mother, sister or daughter, although that is more of a comment on her nature than her genealogy. All three were said to be extremely wise in knowledge, monster-lore and witchcraft.
In the best-known myth about the Stygian Witches, King Polydectes sent the hero Perseus on a mission to get Medusa’s head – even in death, the gorgon would still have the power to turn people who saw her to stone. Perseus was aware that he would be aided in his task by a group of nymphs, but didn’t know where to find them, or where to look for Medusa. He did know how to find the Graeae however, so he went to visit them, and as they were passing their eye between them, he snatched it from them and demanded that they tell him everything he needed to know, or he wouldn’t give it back. The desperate Graeae obeyed and answered all his questions. Despite their assistance, Perseus broke his promise to return the eye, and later threw it into lake Triton.
The Graeae are thought to have been the focus of a group of swan cults across ancient Greece. Strange as it may sound to us now, swans are not just symbolic of beauty, but they were also thought to represent cunning, prophecies (particularly of death), access to other realms, and a range of other, darker things. The Stygian Witches were probably worshipped as the avatars of that set of symbolism – particularly being born grey-haired and with just one eye, and yet also described as swan-like beauties. The missing eyes would have implied sight into other realms, and the grey hair was a symbol of their wisdom and magic power. Peculiar modern suggestions that the Stygian Witches actually represented nothing more than the white froth on top of waves seem to be based on linguistic similarities between their name and the colour grey.